GRIDSERVE Electric Super Hub at Moto Rugby, 11 super-chargers

Driving an electric car to the Alps

Tesla drivers probably don’t need to read on. They have had a good charging infrastructure for years now, so driving to and from the Alps is no issue at all.

Travel to and from the Alps has changed somewhat since COVID. Now people are looking for “greener”, cheaper and perhaps healthier ways to travel. I’ve had a small EV for 6 years. It was a great second car and worked well for us where we live in the French Alps. I’ve been surprised at how quickly electric cars have developed in that time and recently upgraded to a much bigger EV. Now our electric car is the main car in the household. We don’t drive to and from the UK very often. The last time was well over 10 years ago. However we recently could not avoid it so I thought I’d write about how it went.

GRIDSERVE Electric Super Hub at Moto Rugby, 11 super-chargers
GRIDSERVE Electric Super Hub at Moto Rugby, 11 super-chargers

Before I go on. I’d like to acknowledge the fact that no travel is “green”, there are only more or less eco ways to go. So in order of preference:

  • Don’t go!
  • Take a bike or walk
  • Travel by Train or Bus
  • Drive an EV
  • Then a fossil fuel burning car
  • A long way down the list is to fly

In brief

We made 6 stops on the way to Middlesbrough from the Alps. 9 on the way back. We never had any major issues, the only minor issues we had were in the UK. On average the charging stops lasted 20 minutes. Overall our charging experience was better in France. We spoke to a British person charging their EV at one of the motorway fast chargers and he raised this before we did, he said his experience charging in France was better than the UK. As an aside, we were less tired than in the past, stopping every 1.5 to 2 hrs really helps from that point of view.

Was it cheaper than driving an ICE vehicle?

ICE (Internal Combustion Engine). And the answer is “no”. In general owning an EV is cheaper than owning an ICE. 95% of the time I charge at home and this is 20% of the cost of using diesel. In addition, my car only needs a cheap service every 2 years. These savings quickly add up. However, when making a long journey you will use fast chargers on the motorways and they are priced the same as conventional fuels, and sometimes more! You will save money by taking the “eco” routes, or by driving slower but these options are open to you whatever vehicle you drive.

Ionity charging station, Aire de Jura
Ionity charging station, Aire de Jura

The full story

We needed to transport a couple of bikes back from the UK and some personal possessions so driving was really the only viable option. My car is now a Skoda Enyaq, it was the largest, cheapest EV available when I bought it last year. It is only a “standard range” model, so a 60kW battery, any more would be overkill for my day to day use, it does provide enough range for a very long journey, but if you are a frequent long distance driver you will find a long range model much more practical.

EV’s come with different sized batteries, the smaller they are, the cheaper and lighter the car is. If you want to try and make the minimum impact on the planet you should go for as small and light as is practical.

  • 40 kW or less is great for local journeys of less than 200km, for most people this would cover 90% of their driving
  • 50-60-70 kW should do everything, but long journey’s will require quite a few stops.
  • 80+kW is considered “long range” but can be very heavy and expensive.

We made our journey in November 2022, driving from the Alps to Middlesbrough (eventually Newcastle) and back again. We used the tunnel to cross the channel. The total distance we travelled was 3500 km. You might consider using a longer ferry crossing for that trip. Hull to Rotterdam is an option. I’m not sure how “eco” ferries are though.

Tesla charging station, Aire de Jura, a typical situation in France, Ionity was busy, Tesla was empty
Tesla charging station, Aire de Jura, a typical situation in France, Ionity was busy, Tesla was empty

As far as planning went we didn’t spend too much time on it. We used an app called “A Better Routeplanner” https://abetterrouteplanner.com/, which did most of what we needed from a planning point of view. It selects the places to charge automatically. It’s not the most stable app and is not as good as Google at dealing with road closures (we did get caught out by this), but if you use it alongside Google Maps for the navigation it is fine.

We decided to split the journey around Lille. It would make sense to find somewhere to stay that offers charging on site. That would save one charge. But as I said, we didn’t spend long on planning so didn’t have that option. We also had winter tires on the car which won’t have helped the efficiency.

Alps to the UK

1400 km and 6 stops altogether. We only stopped twice between Morzine and Lille. The weather was warm for this leg. 15-20C. 2 stops is quite hard to do and you’d need perfect conditions. We only had 2 in the car, no bikes, we didn’t need any air-conditioning and we drove quite slowly (110km/h). We cut the corner to cross the Jura too. The motorway route via Bourg en Bresse is an hour faster but will mean another charge stop and will cost more on the autoroute (22 €). Don’t discount this shortcut. The route is beautiful and there is a great spot to stop for cheese at the “Fruitière du Pays Grandvallier” close to Morbier.

Typical quiet Tesla superchargers near Saint Quentin
Typical quiet Tesla superchargers near Saint Quentin

We used a fast charger at a Lidl in Lille the next morning and then again at the check-in for the tunnel. In the UK we had to make two more stops before we got to our destination near Middlesbrough. In all, the mpg came out at about 17Wh/100km (3.6 mi/kWh) and the charging added a couple of hours to the journey.

Charging at our destination was done at a fast charger at McDonalds 5 min from where we were staying. We made various excursions in the area. Always using fast chargers.

Keep an eye out from the "eco" route suggestions in Google
Keep an eye out from the “eco” route suggestions in Google

UK back to the Alps

For the journey back the weather had cooled significantly. So we started out with a frost and maximum temperatures hovered around 10C. This makes a big difference to the energy consumption, because not only do you need to heat the cabin but for optimal performance the car will heat the battery too. We had more luggage and a couple of bikes on a tow bar rack (I had not realised before this trip, but at motorway speeds this reduces range by 10 to 15%). We also drove a bit quicker. More like 120km/h and up to 130 km/h (81mph), 120 km/h is the optimal speed in most EV’s when you take into account the charging times. It’s not the optimal speed for saving money, that’s probably about 30 km/h! So, if you really want to cut down on charging stops then drive with the lorries at 90 km/h. It’s pretty boring though!

The Angle of the North near Newcastle
The Angel of the North near Newcastle

The efficiency on the way home was 30% worse at 24 kWh/100km (2.6 mi/kWh). We stopped 9 times. We had to drop our 2 girls at Luton airport on the way, and of course Murphy’s law dictated that the biggest issue we were to have on the entire trip was the charge station just before Luton airport at the services in Rugby. It was a typical issue that thankfully is getting less frequent. The charging machines didn’t recognise any of my 3 membership cards or either of my two debit cards. After 15 minutes and 3 different machines I finally managed to make it work with a credit card. It was a busy spot with 10 charging points and about half the people there were having similar issues. It was stressful and not acceptable. I’ve experienced it many times in the last 7 years but am thankful that it now seems to be getting rarer.

We had another issue at a McDonalds on the side of the M25, we plugged in and went for a coffee, when we got back we discovered the charge had given up after a minute. So we had to wait another 20 min to get the charge we needed. It was a newbie mistake. Always check the car is charging on your app when drinking coffee. I was too relaxed and had left my phone in the car!

Only selected Tesla charging stations are available to all, these are at the Channel Tunnel check-in
Only selected Tesla charging stations are available to all, these are at the Channel Tunnel check-in

Charging your EV in the ski resort

If you are making the journey from the UK to the Alps, you’ll want to know what the charging is like when you arrive. Many of the chalets and hotels have started to fit charge points in the last few years, that will be your first port of call. Beyond that, almost every French town in the Haute Savoie has at least 2 reliable and fairly cheap 22 kW charge points (so not fast chargers). Beyond that many more are being added as I write this. The local paper recently mentioned 20 new points in Chamonix.

Personally I carry the following cards

  • Eborn – This is the “local” one in the French Alps – in fact it covers the whole Rhone Alps. Travellers to the region probably don’t need this, the following cards should cover it.
  • ChargeMap – I think this is the most popular in France, their interactive map has lots of good information and comments about individual chargers.
  • PowerPass – This came with the car, it’s connected to Ionity which is the biggest fast charge network in France.
  • Plugshare – This is one of the biggest pan european cards.
EV charging in the Alps
Bring your charging cable for destination charging in the French Alps

My other EV blogs

An electric car in winter

An electric car in the snow

Electric vehicles and solar panels; they aren’t really that green anyway?

Samoëns property valuations, May 2022

Get your own property valuation for Samoëns or the surrounding towns on our dedicated Property Valuation page.

We have traditionally written market reports for all the ski stations in the Haute Savoie together. This is the entire area covered by Alpine Property. This year we’ll focus on some of the individual ski towns. This way we’ll be able to go into more details. For this report we will focus on Samoëns property valuation.

This report has been compiled using one of the leading price evaluation algorithms in France. We have been using this within our agency for a while and find it very reliable. It draws information from historical data gathered from the Notaires and current real estate listings. If you would like a personalised free valuation then please contact us. Or if you are just looking for the property we have for sale in Samoens have a look here.

As of the first half of 2022, the property market in Samoëns has been extremely dynamic. Demand is outweighing supply. As a result of working from home due to Covid restrictions, there has been a noticeable movement of buyers (mainly French) seeking homes which can be used as their principal residence . International buyers have returned including investors who are keen to secure properties through video tours or live virtual visits with an agent. One positive outcome of Covid is that it has pushed the Notaires to modernise by enabling power of attorneys to be signed digitally thus facilitating transactions remotely.

Samoens Maire

From the buyers point of view there has been more focus on individual stand alone properties. The priority is space for a home office, a good internet connection and a garden. Traditionally people have wanted to be close to the ski lifts. Now more isolated areas are being considered, Substantial properties with a view are sought after, as are small stand alone units that can be transformed. Also spacious 2 or 3 bedroom apartments with decent terraces or balconies with a view.

Samoens centre ville

On the skiing side, there is the new Vercland Gondola just above Samoëns. This new lift has 10 seater cabins that travel from Vercland to Samoens 1600 in an impressive 7 minutes. It opened this season 2021 /2022 (postponed from 2020/2021 due to Covid). Super fast and efficient. To help with access there is an increased shuttle service between the Grand Massif Express and Vercland. There is also work scheduled to improve the parking at Vercland.

Politically, there is a new administration under mayor Jean-Charles Mogenet, the administration is keen for diversification of activities to be offered year round, proposing Samoëns as a “Four seasons” destination. This is a very positive outlook for our customers looking to invest in a rental property in the area and also for those who wish to make Samoëns their year round residence.

We have done a brief resume of the current prices in Samoëns. Obviously for accurate figures we would need the exact location and state of the property.

Reference Apartment,
Close to the centre of Samoëns
60m², 2/3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
Price 372 000 € (6 200 € / m²)
Between 342 000 – 400 000 € (5 700 – 6 666 € /m² )

Reference Chalet
Close to the centre of Samoëns
140m2, 4/5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms on 600m² of land
Price 850 000 € (6 070 € / m²)
Between 725 000 – 958 000 € (5 180 – 6 840 € /m² )

You can see from the figure below that the prices have accelerated quickly since the beginning of the pandemic.

Evolution du Prix Samoens

And below how the distribution of the available properties is spread between chalets and apartments. A 30/70 split is fairly typical for our alpine towns. You can also see the strong growth of number of available apartments since 2010.

Nombre de logements Samoens

Obviously Samoëns is well placed for the skiing and surrounding mountains. But if you are living there all year round and running a business remotely too, access to Geneva becomes more important than ever. You can see from the image below Geneva is just outside the 45min range and Chamonix too.

Temps de transport Samoens

The population in the Haute Savoie is on a general upward trend. It is one of the most dynamic departments in France. Despite this many of the popular ski towns in the regions are seeing a population decline as people are pushed further down the valleys due to the prices close to the centres. This is not the case in Samoëns.

Taux de croissance Samoens

There is access to some of this valuation report for Samoëns or the surrounding towns on our dedicated Property Valuation page. Or contact us directly for the most detailed analysis.

An electric car in the winter

What are electric cars like to use in the winter? It’s one of the first questions I get asked about my car. I have a Skoda Enyaq 60 and the winter is almost over. However this is my 6th winter in the Alps with an electric car ! My first was a much smaller BMW i3, I’ve written about it on “an EV in the snow

The quick answer is that they are much better to use than the old gas guzzler (ICE). I will never be going back. However, that is not the whole story. There are downsides that mostly concern reduced range.

EV’s are so much more convenient and comfortable in the cold

One of the best things about them is their preheat facility. You can either pre-programme your car via the app to warm up for a certain time, or just click the button on the app. Some cars have a button on the key, I’ve set this car to automatically warm or cool as you unlock it. The frost will melt from the windscreen and the car will be warm when you start. And unlike an ICE car which needs the engine to warm up first, the heaters are almost instantaneous. When you live on a hill like we do, you can drive downhill in an ICE car for 20 minutes and the car never warms up! I’ve heard people out here in the Alps say “why didn’t anyone tell me how good the preheat facility is?” Well, now you know. One of those things you never knew you needed, until you’ve tried it! This really is the game changer in the winter.

This car has rear wheel drive 😲

But what if you get “trapped” in your car in the winter?

This was a scare story put all over social media this winter. The papers were alarming people with the thought of dying of hyperthermia if they were trapped in the snow and could not run their fossil burner to keep warm. Whereas the opposite is actually the case. When an EV is stopped it can carry on heating the cabin without issue. It’s actually dead convenient when you are sat in your car at -10C waiting for something. In the old days you had to sit with the engine running. Not any more.

I’ve been stuck in traffic, stuck behind fallen trees in the depths of winter and been quite happy. Also much safer, there is no risk of death from carbon monoxide poisoning (see this tragic incident in Pakistan). The worst case scenario for my car is 6kw of heating on a 60kw battery, so that will run for 10 hrs when full, 5 hours when half full. And actually, because when the cabin is warm, the heaters will have to work less hard, my guess is that it’s more like 20 hrs full and 10 hrs at 50% – in fact this guy tested it and got even more.

Driving in the snow

They handle driving on ice and snow really well. It goes without saying that I use winter tyres. All EV’s are automatic, they all have computer controlled throttle, brakes and sometimes steering too. You use your foot to tell the car you’d like to go and the car decides if the traction can take it. If the wheels slip, the car will reduce the power and find grip where it can. All modern cars do this, but it tends to be better in an EV, the lack of any gears just makes the whole process smoother. It’s the same with understeer or oversteer, it’s basically eliminated. It’s not just an EV thing though. I mention it however because it means you can have a rear wheel drive car and not worry about the old issues in the snow. Both my EV’s have been rear wheel drive and thanks to the traction and stability controls have outperformed my previous front wheel drive cars in the winter.

An electric motor doesn’t care about the cold

They don’t have diesel that can freeze. This isn’t a huge issue for ICE cars in the winter but it does happen, and when it does it is very inconvenient and often tricky to sort out. Occasionally when the temperatures drop under -10C and often at less than -15C you’ll see cars struggling on the alpine roads or broken down on the verge. It’s usually because their diesel has frozen. It is worse on certain models. I think it has something to do with water in the diesel filter freezing up.

The inconvenient truth

The available range in an EV is less when it is cold. The reduction in the Enyaq is not as bad as it was in the BMW but it is still significant. Before I go any further, this is only as “issue” on long journeys. And only then because you’ll have to stop for a recharge. And even that it’s not too bad anymore. The Enyaq I have is the smaller capacity 60kw version. There is a bigger 80kw version available. When the outside temperature is more than around 10C it will manage 350km on one charge.

At -10C it will still drive 250km, and most of the time I don’t do more than that in a day, so the car just goes on charge overnight and I don’t notice. I make a weekly 200km trip on a Sunday night. That’s fine too. But more than that and I’ll have to charge it up on the journey. There are fast chargers all around us now and a quick top up sometimes only takes 5 min, for a refill from 10% to 80% it might take 30min, it’s rare that I have to do that though.

The reason things are getting better for EV’s in the cold is down to the size of the battery. It’s not so much that batteries are worse in the cold, it’s more that the car needs extra power to heat the cabin and the batteries, some people will turn the interior heating off to deal with this. I won’t. I don’t think that getting cold is worth it, even for the environment. And the windows steam up without the heaters and that’s just not clever.

Winter tyres are essential, I was a bit late putting them on in 2021 so had to use some chains

The maths tells all

I’ve simplified things slightly. My first car had a 20kw battery. The heaters took 5kw/h, on average, so the range could easily go down by 30% on a 2 hr trip
My second car had a 30kw battery. The heaters were the same and took 5kw/h, but that’s a smaller % of the battery so it was more like 20% reduction on a 2 hr trip.
This car has a 60kw battery, the heaters take 6kw, so that’s a reduction in range of 15% on a 2 hr trip.

The other way to improve this is to buy a car with a heat pump fitted. It does come standard on many EV’s, which is great. Not on the Enyaq though, in my case it would have been a 1000€ extra, so not really worth it. Under ideal conditions they could reduce that 6kw load to 2kw, at which point that’s a 3% reduction. And if you get the long range version which has an 80kw battery, that would mean a 2.5% reduction.

No winter tyres? Then chains work fine

Even more inconvenient truth

Long trips in the winter. And I repeat, this is not for round trips, this is for long linear trips that will require recharges on the way. So you car has a range of 350km at 100% charge. That’s fine and that’s the summer too. But it’s colder in the winter, lets say -1C, so that’ll mean a loss of about 20% on the range range = 280km. Which is still fine if you are doing a round trip, but if you are on a linear trip and want to charge along the way, you won’t want to run the car much below 10% “just in case”, so that reduces the range again to 250km, and you’ll discover that when you charge past 80% the charge rate drops right down to preserve the life of the battery. So really it makes sense to run your car between 10% and 80%, so that’s another 20% to take off = 200km real range.

But that’s not all. A long trip will involve driving on the motorway. EV’s can go at pretty much any speed you want, but just the same as an ICE at high speed the energy consumption starts to ramp up at motorway speeds. So motorways take even more than you expect. At 130km/h take off another 20%. You’ll probably drive at more like 110km/h so it’ll be more like a 10% decrease. So the total figure is 180km. Double gulp. Now you know why you keep overtaking Tesla’s on the motorway. They are faster than a 1m€ super car, but practically, they prefer cruising around at a lower speed so they can go further!

And there is more

It’s a small thing, but it’s real. EV’s are charging faster and faster. Mine charges at 100kw/h, some charge at 350kw/h. So my 10 to 80% charge should take about 30 min on a supercharger. However, you know what’s coming don’t you? These charging speeds are hard to attain in the cold. In winter the reality is my car charges at half this speed to protect the cold battery from damage. So instead of 30 min, it could be 1hr.

The good bit of this is that the car manufacturers are getting very good at making the batteries last longer and longer with good battery management. This is great, I expect my battery to outlast the life of the car, it’ll then go on to have a second life in a house or as a grid stabiliser or something….but one of the things a battery doesn’t like is a fast charge when cold.

So the manufacturer has a choice between warming the battery with the heater (uses more energy) or throttling the charging speed. Some of them get it right. I believe you can tell a Tesla where you are going, it will then predict where the charge will take place and pre-warm the battery in the kilometres before the charge. This sort of predictive management seems to be a bit complicated for VW and others, they say they are working on it. The way around it is to drive at warp speed in the kilometres before the charge, this high drain will warm the battery “naturally”, I’ve tried it, it works a bit but it’s not ideal for loads of reasons.

Skoda do have a good and believable range calculator for their cars https://rangecalculator.skoda-auto.com have a good play with this, it is a lot more intuitive than my attempts to explain some of these issues.

The EV database is a good reference for real life range predictions across the various EV’s available. https://ev-database.org/


A Better Route Planner is a great way of putting together ALL the variables and planning a long trip https://abetterrouteplanner.com/

What do you need to know about Samoëns?

Altitude 720m
Population 2200
Distance to Geneva airport: 1h15
Nearest Train: Cluses (25min)
Skiing: Grand Massif – 265km

All the properties we have for sale in Samoëns https://alpine-property.com/Samoëns 

Our online valuation tool for Samoëns https://alpine-property.com/Samoëns/valuation 

Samoëns has the best of both worlds, it’s a traditional Savoyard resort and a delightful small town. Samoëns has consciously maintained its Alpine charm, despite a recent flurry of expansion in which new chalets and lifts have added to its appeal. At just 720m, snow in the resort is not guaranteed. However this is not a problem because access to one of the most snow-sure ski areas in the Alps is fast and convenient. 

Samoëns is a real village. It’s not just a ski resort. It has a year round community that acts and feels like a real village. It’s well connected too, just an hour and a quarter from Geneva airport and with the nearest train station, about 25min away at Cluses. It’s not just Samoëns either, there are lots of smaller villages Morillon, Verchaix, Taninges, Mieussy, Les Carroz and Flaine.

The summer season is just as busy as the winter season, but then, it’s not really about seasons in Samoëns. The point about Samoëns is that it has an all year round community life. For instance Samoëns loves its weekly market, it’s a hugely important part of the village. In addition to the market, there are a full range of activities, events and festivals. There is even a local radio station for the entire valley too.

Samoëns is one of the few ski resorts in the Alps with a stable number of inhabitants. Whereas many areas are losing their communities because they are being priced out of the area. The population of Samoëns is stable, if not growing. 

Associations

https://www.mairiedeSamoëns.fr/guide-des-associations

Some listings https://hautesavoieassociations.fr/Samoëns/

Handiglisse Association – provides sports equipment for disabled individuals (such as uniski, dualski or kartski) seeking to partake in mountain activities (adapted for summer and winter) with qualified instructors. 

Website: http://www.Samoëns-handiglisse.com

https://Samoëns.com/commerce-location-pret/pret-de-materiel-handisport

https://Samoëns.com/handi-activites-hiver/handiski-avec-skisession

Giffre en transition – a group of local initiatives for ecological and social transition with the Giffre Valley.  Website :www.giffre-en-transition.fr or Email: contact@giffre-en-transition.fr

Naturide 74 –  VTT / Mountain Biking Club 

https://www.facebook.com/clubnaturide74

Important Events and Festivals:

Criou Blues & Celt Festival  https://www.facebook.com/CRIOUBLUESFestival

Ultra Trail du Haut GIffre https://Samoëns.com/animations/ultra-trail-du-haut-giffre-2021-8eme-edition

REFUGES – summer 

There are four great refuges in Samoëns 

https://www.refuge-du-folly.fr

https://www.refugedebostan.fr/ (normally open in winter, but not this winter 2021/22)

http://www.refuge-chardonniere.fr/ (in the territory of Samoens, but accessed from Morzine)

https://www.refugedesales.com/

Morillon has a great selection of summer activities around their lake ‘Lac Bleu’ for all ages 

Horse-riding, tennis, air bag, Mali Parc, accrobranche, brand new assault course on the lake called Le Splash, pump track.

Le Lac Bleu

Samoëns Lac is now open for swimming from July 7th

Commerce and Weekly Market 

Supporting our local commerce and weekly Wednesday market (all year around on Wednesday mornings) is a hugely important component to Samoëns life.

Radio Giffre https://www.radiogiffre.com

It broadcasts out of Samoëns but encompasses the valley du Giffre and has just celebrated its 40 year anniversary. It’s an important exchange of local information within the Giffre Valley.

Medieval History and Stone carvers of Samoëns 

https://Samoëns.com/histoire-Samoëns-la-ville-des-sept-monts

And finally, Le Petit Train, the train driver Claude is a character and does a little antidotal ‘Tour’ of the village, not to be missed, whether young or old

I want to sell my property in France; what is a mandate?

You want to sell your property in France and about to sign a mandate with an agency, you don’t really know what a mandate is and you are fearing another French bureaucratic nightmare ???

Let me help you through this!

If you want to work with an estate agent in France to sell your property you will need to sign a “mandat de vente”. In English that is known as a sales contract. It’s the law, an agency is not authorised to market a property without a valid mandat. This is the contract that formalises exactly what the agency will do and how much it will be paid. Signing the mandate does not mean you will have anything to pay. The agent’s fees are only paid on successful completion of the sale.

We have a video version of this question on our YouTube channel.

The mandate will have the name of the seller, name and contact details of the agency, description of the property, the agency fees, duration of the contract and an explanation of what the agent will do to sell the property. Unless the mandate is signed at the agent’s offices, you have a 14 day cooling off period before it becomes valid. It can be exclusive or non-exclusive. The difference is down to costs versus motivating an agent. They have many properties to sell. You want them to prioritise yours!

So in the case of an exclusive mandate – the aim is to increase the speed of sale of your property and to achieve the best price. A period of exclusivity motivates the sales agency because it is usually time limited – the agent will want to make the most of the time they have as the sole person marketing the property. The advantages for the seller are that the agency will work for reduced fees. Your property will only be advertised with one agency. It won’t be “over-advertised”, this increases the attractiveness of the property to a buyer. The agency will be fully focused on your sale. Although, with your consent there can be delegations to other agencies, you will only have one contact for arranging visits and receiving offers, this makes the sales process much easier for the seller to handle. There should be a time limit to the exclusivity. Otherwise the agent might not have the motivation you seek. 3 months is fair. The disadvantage of an exclusive mandate is that it  only works if you have a good motivated agency with a good track record of attracting buyers! You need to trust the people you are working with. 

The advantages of a non-exclusive mandate  are that you can maximise your sales opportunities by working with any number of agents, this means you are not taking a risk with just one agency.  But beware, over-exposure does not look good to your prospective buyer. In this case each agent will advertise your property on various portals like Rightmove, in this case it is common to see the same property for sale at slightly different prices, this looks bad to a buyer. Dealing with multiple agents, and sometimes having to juggle the same buyer with more than one agent, is not easy. The other disadvantage of a non-exclusive mandate is that it will normally cost more. 

If this hasn’t helped, what can you do?

Alpine Property Market Report April 2021

Every few months since the start of COVID we have had a look at what property prices are doing in the French Alps. The history is here:

Alpine Property market report, July 2020 COVID edition!

How is COVID affecting property prices in the Alps? (May/June 2020)

Coronavirus COVID-19 and your Property in the Alps (April 2020)

Covid is by no means over, however we can see that we are going to have to learn to live with this virus for some time.

Because of covid restrictions almost none of the ski lifts opened for the 2020/21 winter season. The British aren’t allowed to come on holiday, however, that has not stopped a fair number of French visitors arriving over the winter to make the most of what is on offer in the Haute Savoie.

We’ve produced this market report in video format too.

Right now we are still seeing unprecedented demand for property in the Alps. Our numbers go back 20 years and 2020 has been our busiest year with  a 20% jump in enquiries. There is no let up in 2021 either. The same scenario is being repeated around the world. People are discovering that they can work from home which means they can work and live where they really want to be. It’s something we can empathise with. Half the Alpine Property team came to live in the Alps for this very reason. This activity is not slowing down so we don’t expect any change in the market in the near future.

The Alpine Property market in the French Alps has always dealt with high demand from British based customers. We are still getting lots of enquiries from the British, but obviously, actual sales have dropped off thanks to the travel restrictions. This demand has been more than replaced by French customers. So much so that there is a reduced supply of properties. When demand outstrips supply it can only mean that prices will increase. 

We monitor a couple of sales figures. The primary one is average property prices. Over the last 10 years we have seen between a 20 and 30% increase in property prices. Depending on the type of property and the area. However, over the last 3 years they have been fairly flat across the board. It’s early days but the last 6 months is definitely showing a 2-5% increase in prices across ski villages of the Haute Savoie. 

The second metric we follow is the average agreed price compared to advertised prices. At the moment there is only a reduction of 1 or 2%. This means that most properties are selling for asking price. And that is the sort of market we are in: a seller’s market. Now is not the time to make an offer at below asking price!

A further driver of this increased activity in property investment is fear of negative interest rates and inflation. In the first instance not to have to pay the banks to look after money, and the second to safeguard cash from inflation. 

So to summarise, the current property market in the alps is very active. Prices are edging up. New properties for sale on the market are becoming harder to come by, so this can only mean the prices will continue to rise.

If you have any questions to ask about the market please put them in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them.

Holidays in the Alps in 2021

The ski lifts are closed to the public. Hotels only operate on room service. Restaurants are “fermé”. Customs officers are checking for skis when you drive across the French – Swiss border. There is no getting away from this, it is a tricky time for the holiday industry in the Alps.

Holidays to the continent never used to be easy. I have some evidence of this. I’ve collected a couple of books from the late 1800’s that I’ll refer to below, I’ve also raided my Grandmothers holiday snaps from 1934. Holidays were long and expensive voyages. In some respects that might make them more memorable. Keep this in mind when lamenting the current lack of conveniences.

Edward Whymper

Edward Whymper is famous for the first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865 on his eighth attempt. I have an early copy of his best-seller “Scrambles 1860-69”, Whymper was not a rich man, an engraver, he was first sent to the Alps on a work trip, to document an ascent by others of Mt Plevoux in the Dauphiné, in the end, the ascent failed. The French guide that had been engaged encouraged Whymper to try again, they succeeded and at 20 yrs old, a mountaineer was born. This was before photography became convenient, so these engravings were less art and more documentation. Travelling to the Alps in those days was by train and took days, the cost will have been high. Tourism was not new. The first ascent of Mont Blanc had been in 1786.

I have selected a couple of pages from Scrambles that discuss the Chamonix mountain guides.

Alfred Wills is from the same time. Maybe 10 years ahead of Whymper. Another famous Alpine tourist. He had money though, he was a famous Judge. Famous because he presided over the trial for gross indecency of Oscar Wilde. Wills bought a “chalet” near Samoens, it is still there and still in his family I believe. Way up the valley at 1350m a few kilometres walk from the road head. “Chalets de Fonts”, further up the hill, the Refuge d’Anterne is named after him. In those days Samoens was an obvious choice for a holiday, it was connected by rail into the main network. I have his book, “Wanderings” from 1853.

Below is the first page. A mention of his 4-day journey to Chamonix and like Whymper he took the opportunity to take a dig at the Chamonix guides.

My Grandmother

My Grandmother travelled extensively around Europe in the ’30s. This would have been possible thanks to her wealthy background. The first I knew of it was when visiting her before she died in 2005. She was 94 at the time and not making a whole lot of sense. I told her I was living in the Alps so she asked me where. I said it was close to the French/Swiss border. Her response was to point me towards a drawer and ask that I dig out her photo albums, saying she was sure she’d been skiing near there when she was younger. Her albums were fairly well buried, but I pulled them out and started flicking through them. The pictures were so good I assumed they were a collection of postcards. Thanks to her failed eyesight my Grandmother was unable to guide me through them. I kept turning the pages, not really believing what I was looking at until I started to recognise some of the architecture, I could see the wording on one of the hotels was in French too. And then finally I saw the Dents du Midi, when I saw them I knew it had been taken from above Morgins. Right on my doorstep. I was astounded. These images where dated 1934.

As far as I can find out, the first ski lift in Morgins was the Foilleuse, built in 1958, a single-seat chair lift

https://www.remontees-mecaniques.net/bdd/reportage-tsd3-de-la-foilleuse-wso-stadeli-lift-129.htm

And from the pictures, it was clear that “skiing” in those days meant hiking up the hills. There were no ski lifts at all. The skis were enormous and made from solid wood, the skins they attached to the bottom to give grip to allow uphill movement were made from seal skin.

I can’t help but write a few more lines about my Granny. Since her death we have had a closer look at some of her other papers, we have her passport from the time. Amongst the stamps, it is clear she made half a dozen trips to Austria, Yugoslavia and Switzerland in 1937 & 38. A very “active” time politically for those areas. We can see that she left Austria either on the 7th March 38 or the 17th March 38, so either 5 days before the Anschluss or 5 days after!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anschluss#German_troops_march_into_Austria

Beyond mentioning she drove an ambulance, Granny hadn’t spoken much about her time in the war. We found an official photo of her. The officers uniform suggests she did more than drive an ambulance. My uncle recently asked for her war record. It seems that she did indeed start out driving ambulances during the Blitz but then went on to work for various Anti-Aircraft Brigade Groups, then in 1945 she was posted to the CSDIC (Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre), Military Intelligence, where we surmise she used her German language skills (Swiss finishing school had its uses). Then towards the end of the war in August 1945 she spent 6 months in Germany with BAOR (British Army of the Rhine). This time overlapped with her time with CSDIC. Exactly what she was up to is classified. Yet another example of the modesty of her generation.

An Alpine cycling tour in 1937

Holidays in the Alps in the inter-war years were not confined to the well off. I recently came across an article written about 3 friends from Middlesbrough and Stockton-on-Tees. They were inspired to take the train to Munich and tour with their bikes through Bavaria, the Austrian Tyrol and the Dolomites. Their pictures are fabulous and can be seen on the link below. Some of these pictures and the pictures of my Granny overlap. Same place, same year!

http://drmarionb.free.fr/1937CyclingTour/Pages/16.html

I’m British and live in the UK. How long can I stay in France?

At some point, the UK and France may enter into a further agreement, or there may be a new agreement with the EU, but until then the requirements that apply for those who arrive from 2021 onwards will be those that already apply to other non-EU nationals. So you can either come for a holiday or apply for a Visa to stay longer.

I want to stay for less than 180 days a year.

From 1 January 2021, a new 90/180 rule will apply throughout the Schengen area of which most EU countries are members. This allows UK residents to spend 90 out of every 180-days in the EU. This means UK residents with second homes in France can spend 180 days a year at their French homes, but not all in one go.

I want to stay for more than 180 days a year.

Then you will need a long-stay visa costing 99€. There is a useful website that covers this:

https://france-visas.gouv.fr/en_US/web/france-visas/long-stay-visa

There are 4 categories for the visa application

  • Stay for an extended period for tourist or personal reasons
  • Carry out a professional activity; for instance, to start a new business
  • Pursue education
  • Join family members

At least 90 days before you leave the UK, you will need to apply to the French Embassy in the UK for the visa. If you are living outside of the UK, then the application should be made to the local consulate. There are Embassy offices in London, Manchester and Edinburgh, all of which can handle these applications.

For the grant of this type of visa, two important conditions apply: 

  • Sufficient financial resources 
  • Health insurance.

Test of Resources

The test of resources requires that you have resources at least equivalent to the minimum working wage (SMIC), which is €1,231 net/month in 2021, for the period of your stay (maximum one year), after which a residence permit is required.

The test is applied differently to those who are economically inactive, and to those who are proposing to run a business activity, or who will become salaried.

Retired

If you are not proposing to work, the SMIC figure is per adult in the household, although in practice a lower test may be applied. Some relaxation of the SMIC rule also operates if you own your home in France without a mortgage.

Also, if your income is below the minimum level, but you have capital resources that would enable you to live in France for a year or more, that may compensate for the lower income level.

Health insurance

You must have an insurance certificate covering all medical and hospital expenses for which you may be liable for the duration of your stay in France, as well as medical repatriation costs and expenses in the event of death. This does not seem hard to come by.

We have another blog on Brexit and buying property in France.

https://france-visas.gouv.fr/en_US/web/france-visas/long-stay-visa

Brexit and buying a property in France

Brexit and buying a property in France: Some FAQ’s

The UK’s departure from the EU has a number of consequences for British nationals buying and selling properties in France. Below we have set out some of the main changes and how we think they will impact our customers.

If I am looking to buy in France, does Brexit make it more expensive for me?

No, there are no additional costs for non-residents looking to purchase in France after 1 January 2021. Acquisition costs will remain at about 7 to 8% for an existing property and around 2.5% for a new-build home.

What changes if I want to sell my property in France?

This is where the changes are. It’s all to do with Capital Gains Tax.

Capital Gains Tax (CGT)

CGT has always been payable if your property has increased in price. Don’t forget that, if your sale attracts tax, this indicates an increase in value in your property, which is largely a positive outcome!

Primary residences are still exempt from CGT. 

If a second home has increased in value, CGT is levied on the increase. In France, there are two payments due on a capital gain, the CGT and a social levy.

The standard CGT on the sale of a property will remain at 19%. The standard social levy charge for EU residents with a second home in France is currently 7.5% but this has increased to 17.2% for British homeowners from 1 January 2021. This means the total tax now due on a capital gain will be 36.2%, up from 26.5%.

BUT a taper relief also exists for both CGT and the social levy. For CGT the rate decreases from 6 years of ownership, with no CGT due after 22 years. The social charge taper also starts at year 6 with no charge applicable after 30 years of ownership. You can see this in the table below.

To deal with these taxes, in the majority of cases, a non-EU resident selling a second home in France will be required to appoint a fiscal representative. There are exemptions where the sale price is under €150,000 or if the property has been owned for 30 years or more. The fee for this can range from 0.5% to 1% of the property’s sale price, payable out of the sale proceeds but deductible as part of the CGT calculation.

We have another blog post on the subject of how to spend more than 90 days in France.

Cycle paths in the Alps (or the lack of them)

#See the note at the bottom, it seems the council has been listening to my dreams!

I’m not talking about mountain bike tracks here. I’m talking about transport. At the moment cyclists mostly share the alpine roads with motor vehicles. On the mountain cols that can work OK. Unfortunately, as the valley roads get busier and busier tensions between the two communities rise. And before I polarise this discussion, it should be remembered that almost all the cyclists drive cars too! And some of the drivers ride bikes. So these two communities are really one community.

Between Morzine and Les Gets, my dream, nothing more at the moment © Please do not reproduce this image!

We see all the new investment being spent on skiing, on snowmaking, ski-lifts, new pistes. Not forgetting the new buildings, chalets and apartments. It’s easy to see the link between investment and return. This is not a criticism, I understand the business. We are used to seeing money being spent on new tarmac, new roads, bridges, tunnels. We don’t question this necessity. But I think we are missing a trick.

Between Morzine and Les Gets, the solid blue line exists as a gravel track. The rest is just a suggestion.

We all rely on the mountains to “provide”, we know that they offer more than just skiing. I came here 20 years ago looking for mountains (not skiing). Skiing provided the industry to pay the bills. At that time I was in the minority. Now it’s normal. Now the majority come to these valleys for the mountains. They might ski but they will also bike, run, swim, climb…the list is long. There needs to be a change of emphasis in investment to reflect this.

Cycle paths

I don’t need to state that more people are cycling on the alpine roads. It’s obvious. Many, many times more than 20 years ago. And now we have e-bikes too. Yet another explosion, and this is just the start. All across Europe, there is fantastic cycling infrastructure being created. If you have never been to the Netherlands on a bike, I recommend it. It’s another world. Even closer to home, just the other side of Lac Leman you never have to ride on a busy road. Almost no expense has been spared to keep powered and non-powered transport separate.

Wooden cycle bridge
Pont Rotary on route 5 in Switzerland, for walkers, bikes, roller skis or skates!

But it’s not just in Switzerland. France is catching up too. Near us is the mighty ViaRhona, 815km from Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) to the Mediterranean. There is still work to do around Lac Léman, but the section I rode this summer from Geneva to Lyon was either on smooth cycle tracks like the one pictured below or quiet side roads.

Pont du Lit au Roi on the Via Rhona cyle track, pretty much the “middle of nowhere”.

The bridge in the next image is due to be finished by the end of the year. Again, on the ViaRhona, it’s an investment of 1.8m€ so the cyclists can avoid a busy road. More information here https://www.savoie.fr/entre-la-balme-et-virignin and a reportage here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXCBQJwI9DI

A 170m bridge being constructed on the Via Rhona

At a departmental level there is progress being made. From Chamonix to Geneva the Véloroute Léman Mont-Blanc is progressing well. The Tour du Lac d’Annecy and Annecy to Thones too. There is more information on this dedicated website. http://veloenhautesavoie.com/plan-departemental-74-velo-voies-vertes/

The cycle tracks under construction in the Haute Savoie.

It’s not just national infrastructure either. In the Abondance valley the local municipalities have got together and linked the quiet roads from one end of the valley to the other. 20km in all. An excellent job.

Le Chemin des Bords de Dranse

It wasn’t all easy. This section of raised route clings to the side of the river valley, to avoid the main road on the other side. Unfortunately, it is not a route that is likely to attract the dedicated road cyclist. To do that it would have to have a smoother surface.

However, it is at the Municipal level that progress is much slower. There is so much more work to be done, and some very particular “pinch points”. One of the worst is from Morzine to Les Gets. Two villages only separated by 5km, but if you are a cyclist it’s a very unpleasant section. People even try and walk it, sometimes with tragic consequences. The first two pictures in this blog illustrate what could be done. It should not have to be a dream. It should be a priority. There are plenty of others. Morzine to St Jean d’Aulps, Samoens to Taninges, I could go on.

This sort of thing should not be an afterthought anymore. Cycle provision should be a priority. It does pay too. If the local municipalities prioritise this sort of infrastructure the visitors will appreciate it as much as the local inhabitants. And that is good business!

# It looks like Morzine and Les Gets municipal councils have mobilised to create something ambitious. Excellent! Have a look at this article for more information! https://c.ledauphine.com/culture-loisirs/2020/10/08/une-voie-verte-pour-securiser-les-cyclistes-entre-les-gets-et-morzine